Friday, December 5, 2008


My first solo apartment was up in Rhinebeck, NY, where I floundered through nine strange and lonely months after dropping out of college, halfway through my junior year. I was up there working with emotionally disturbed adolescent girls at The Astor Home for Children, and trying to live through a string of phenomenally bad choices. The kids (all too damaged to find homes in foster care) left an unhealable wound in my heart; and I still think of them, often. It was soul-crushing work, really, and I found myself in need of comfort almost all the time. (Which is how I came to fall back into old bad habits, drinking and smoking much too much for a while, but that's another story.)

I found refuge at the Copper Kettle II - a diner where I ate lunch or breakfast almost every day before my shift, and where the ancient waitresses looked after me and kept the tuna melts and lemon pie coming all through that long, snowy winter and cold, rainy spring. (By the time summer came I was starting to search for an exit, and fall found me back on the UWS.)

Toad-in-the-Hole, a Copper Kettle breakfast special, is pure Americana. To me it seemed almost exotic, I guess - the epitome of the non-Jewish, working class Hudson Valley where everything was different from the world I had known growing up. I made Toad-in-the-Hole for Bill this morning, tucking a little chopped ham under the egg and grating some fresh parmesan over the top. Still a marvelous, welcome comfort after all these years.


  1. How interesting! I only know Toad in the Hole as the British dish, sausages cooked in Yorkshire pudding (a firm favorite in our house).

    This is toast, fried with the egg in a hole in the middle?

  2. oops! I didn't mean to be anonymous!

  3. Hi Sylvia,
    Thanks for your message. My guess is that the British sausage/pudding dish was the original Toad-in-the-Hole, and that the American dish I'm describing (called variously Egg in the Basket, Egg in the Hole, One Eyed Jacks, Hobo Toast, etc)probably came to be called Toad in the Hole at some later point. Here's a link:
    Might I trouble you for your family Toad-in-the-Hole recipe? I'd love to try that.

  4. I moved to Oldham in Northern England in 1992 and found I couldn't get the ingredients for my tex-mex dishes and seafood salads. I learned a new repertoire of dishes based on "something that will stick to the ribs" but the one that I struggled with most was required every Sunday lunch: Yorkshire Pudding. I'm not sure why it seemed such a big deal but I felt frustrated that I could not quite get just the right amount of crispy and fluffy bits to go with the gravy. Meanwhile, everyone else was buying individual puddings at the supermarket and wondering why I was wasting my time.

    The breakthrough was when I followed a recipe in an American cookbook. My mother bought me the Compleat I Hate to Cook Book as a joke. I noticed she had a recipe for High-Rise Yorkshire Pud. Her ratio of ingredients seems to be just right:

    1 cup unsifted flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 eggs
    1 cup milk

    I'm glad that I ended up persevering because although I no longer do a big Sunday roast with all the trimmings, I regularly make Toad in the Hole which doesn't work well with the supermarket version. I still use Peg Bracken's recipe. The process is built up over many Sundays of experimenting to get it just right. ;)

    * Batter as above
    * Six good quality sausages, pricked with a fork
    * Gravy

    Mix the Yorkshire Pudding batter until just combined and leave in fridge to chill, at least one hour.

    Preheat the oven to as hot as it will go (450F 225C usually).

    Put a tablespoon of lard or other rendered fat into a roasting tin (oil will smoke and burn) and place it into the oven. Once the tin is hot and the fat just about spitting, place your sausages into the tin and pour over the well-chilled Yorkshire Pudding batter. Return to the oven and turn down the heat to 200C/400F. Leave to bake for 50 minutes.

    I serve this with a onion gravy:

    Carmelise the onions with a tablespoon of sugar for 20-30 minutes, stir in flour. Add beef broth and red wine and a tablespoon of mustard. Season with Worcester Sauce. Allow this to simmer and bubble for 20 minutes or so (I start the gravy when I put the toad in the hole in the oven).

  5. Sylvia! Thanks so much for sending this along. It looks delicious. My mother used to make Yorkshire Pudding every once in a while when I was little and I remember loving it. I'll post my results over the holiday break when I finally have a free morning to try this out.